By a unanimous decision the NHL has granted the city of Seattle an expansion franchise that will begin in 2021. After a record-breaking ticket drive and support, it’s clear that the NHL is happy with their decision to add a new team in Seattle. However, on this episode I dive deeper into why Seattle is perfect for the NHL and how this could just be another step in NHL expansion.
Who could have predicted this? When the National Hockey League announced that they would be putting the leagues thirty-first franchise in the desert of Las Vegas there were plenty of cynics. Not only was the NHL trying to put another team in the desert then a traditional hockey market, but many saw this as another expansion franchise that it would take years to reach relevancy. Less than a calendar year after the first puck was dropped in Sin City the Vegas Golden Knights and the NHL have hit the jackpot.
It’s fitting to see the Vegas Golden Knights as the team that defied all the odds in their inaugural season. Taking advantage of the new expansion draft the roster was filled with young talent and solid veterans that turned Vegas into the storyline of the season. Even with the early hardships with an injury bug that decimated the team’s goaltending depth the team still finished with one of the league’s best records at 51-24-7. Even with the team falling in five games in the Stanley Cup Finals, it’s clear that this team has a bright future.
What people aren’t talking about is what the success in Vegas means for the league’s aggressive expansion plan. Don’t forget that Gary Bettman said he could imagine a 34 team league back in 2017 and the NHL has set a fee for cities looking for an expansion franchise. In fact the league is closing in on team number 32 in Seattle has an ownership group has already started a season ticket drive and the franchise is hoping to hit the ice for the 2020-2021 season.
For a city that wants a major league franchise or looking to add another team the success in Vegas and the generous expansion draft could give a team the opportunity to be competitive from day one. With other league’s not looking into expansion and with expansion teams in the NBA, NFL, and MLB toiling in obscurity for years it makes the NHL a more enticing investment for a city that wants a major league team. Even with a $650 Million expansion fee for a new franchise, it still cheaper to get a NHL franchise then getting and NBA and NFL franchise where recent sales of franchises in those leagues have been valued in the billion dollar range.
Meanwhile, the expansion would be beneficial for the owners in the league. The would receive an expansion fee from these new teams, as they would split up the expansion fees from these cities. With Seattle closing in on a team, it will be interesting to see if there will be any other movement in the NHL whether through expansion or relocation. There have been cities that have expressed interest in both the United States and Canada for potential franchises. These include cities like Quebec, Hamilton, Kansas City, and Hartford who have expressed interest in hosting a hockey franchise.
The success of the Vegas Golden Knights has been huge for the NHL. Not only do they have a successful franchise in a new market, but the league’s new expansion format has set the league up for the potential for the next wave of expansion franchises. No matter how you look at it, it’s clear the Vegas experiment has been a resounding success.
Honorable mention: Kansas City
- The famous line from Field of Dreams that “if you build it, they will come” didn’t work for Kansas City. Built in 2007, Kansas City believed that their state of the art 17,500 seat arena would help to lure an NHL team. Despite a few teams using Kansas City as a relocation threat, nothing has come to fruition. Despite being a beautiful arena part of Kansas City’s problem is the unknown hockey market which scares off possible suitors, especially when you look at the NHL’s success at entering “new” hockey markets. For now the Sprint Center sits in downtown Kansas City as a reminder that you should make sure you have a horse, before you build the barn.
- 5) Seattle
With a new arena in the works located near both Safeco and Centurylinks Fields, Seattle has become a city that the NHL is closely monitoring. With no competition from an NBA team in the winter, a hockey team would be the sole focus. Also, Seattle is known for some of the most loyal and rowdy fans in the country. Can you imagine that home ice advantage?Logistically, it gives another opponent in the Western Conference, and it’s proximity to Vancouver could create a new and fierce rivalry within the NHL.
I know that NHL expansions in the south have been less then fruitful. More often than not there a disaster. However, the Stars have always been a great draw in Dallas, why not give the lone star state another team. Houston is currently the largest American market without an NHL team, and we all know that Gary Bettman is all about the bottom line. With a large untapped market, a chance for a great in-state rivalry, and a city that has never had NHL hockey, why not give Houston a team? Hey, everything’s bigger in Texas, why not make the NHL one of those things?
Ok, I know what this looks like being a Hartford Whalers fanatic. If you want to see more on why I think the Whalers should come back check out my article here (Bring back the Brass Bonanza!). Despite Hartford’s need for a new arena, Hartford does offer a large TV market and a well established history in the NHL. They already have a loyal fan base and brand as the Whaler brand is still ones of the most valuable merchandising brands in the NHL. It’s a long-shot, but a team in Hartford would be better than some of the other team’s in the south. All I can say that if the Whalers were to ever return, Connecticut will be behind them. Hopefully, we get to hear the Brass Bonanza once again!
2) Oklahoma City
With the success of the Oklahoma City Thunder, a new arena, and a market with little competition all make Oklahoma City another city that could use an NHL team. While Oklahoma City may seem odd, it’s a city that rallies around its local teams. In a city similar in size to Winnipeg, the NHL has focused on small markets that can support a team and OKC could be one of those. Based on the rapid success of the Thunder and the support from the community, the NHL may just take a shot on OKC.
If any team will get an NHL franchise back, it will be Quebec. With a brand new palace of an ice rink scheduled to be built by 2015, an established fan base, and a market that the NHL regrets leaving; Quebec offer the best option for an NHL franchise. They have a rich history with the Nordiques, and the NHL is finally realizing that hockey in Canada is their most popular sport. With Winnipeg’s success, and Canadians begging for more hockey, in my opinion it’s not if but when the NHL returns to Quebec. What city do you think deserves an NHL franchise? Do you agree of disagree and why? Comment below for your opinions.